Miniature Murder, She Wrote

Frances Glessner Lee created her crime-scene miniatures to assist, and in a sense develop, the training of forensic investigators. Using real dollhouse furniture and dolls, the miniatures are, however, anything but toys.

Thwarted in her quest to become a doctor, this Gilded-age heiress constructed tiny rooms from descriptions of real crime scenes, so accurate they contained correct blood spatter patterns. A sculpture series in its own right, the diminutive rooms subvert all notions of domestic bliss. Viewing the doll corpses and wee murder weapons is to enter a dystopian wonderland of murder, suicide, accident, and mayhem.

Exhibited at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC several years ago, where they were the subject of a book, “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,”  Lee’s pieces deserve a permanent home on public display.


Too Real?

I couldn’t resist reposting this article about Carol May‘s Happy Meal parody sculpture ending up in the trash. Read to the end, which has a short history of other sculptures mistaken for something that needed cleaning.

Maya Lin’s Library

What has Maya Lin been doing lately? Among other things, re-designing a “jewel box” library complex on the historic Smith College Campus. Lin’s innovative design incorporates, among other features, a large, light-gathering prism to bring rooftop sunlight deep into the interior of the library.

While on campus, visit the College’s Museum of Art, which has a fabulous ladies room designed by Ellen Driscoll and collection highlights like this one by Betye Saar:


Boston Biennial Five


I’m excited to be included in the Boston Biennial 5, opening Today at Atlantic Works Studios. Closing Reception April 22nd.

Anne Seymour Damer


I’m breaking with my normal predilections today to make a note about Regency-era British sculptor Anne Seymour Damer (1748-1828).

Damer was a wealthy, independent-minded woman from an aristocratic Whig family. She married John Damer in 1767, and seems to have had the leisure to develop her art after his death in 1776. Damer led a life of travel and adventure, even once being captured by privateers. She met Napoleon, Horace Mann, and Lord Nelson, among other luminaries. Like Rosa Bonheur, she favored men’s clothing and rumors swirled about her close friendships with other women. She received several important commissions including George III, Lord Nelson, and the actress Sarah Siddons.

Her marble self portrait bust is in the Uffizi’s Vasari corridor. She is buried in Kent with her sculpting tools and the ashes of her favorite dog.


Pictured (at top): “Shock Dog” c. 1782, Carrara marble, collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Victoria and Albert Museum, “Mrs. Freeman as Isis” (above, portrait of the artist’s mother)


Sculpture Outdoors

Have been really enjoying Deborah Lee’s blog, Art Outdoors. I’m planning some outings based on her visits to Massachusetts sculpture parks and sites, especially the Boston women sculptors she documents on her tour of the Public Art Walk. I’m late posting for International Women’s Day, but here goes!

Women Artists Represented on Public Art Walk Boston



Davis Museum’s spring

Elizabeth Catlett, "Glory"

Wellesley College’s Davis Museum opens its spring season with a stunning series of exhibits relevant to Black History Month and Women’s History Month, and a gorgeous retrospective of the photography of Clarence H. White. Upstairs are surreal prints by Max Klinger and textiles by the African Siddis people of India. New selections from the museum’s collection include one of my favorites, Elizabeth Catlett’s life-size bronze “Glory”.

Nora Valdez

ValdezNora Valdez contributes sculpture and little-seen drawings to “Close to Home” at the Duxbury Art Center Complex. Her poignant work explores the isolation of the immigrant experience–and her work is more apt now than ever. It’s refreshing to see Valdez’s work both inside and outside the museum–in the galleries and also in the permanent sculpture garden on the grounds.

There is a panel discussion this Sunday, November 19th, from 2-3:30pm at the Museum, featuring “Close to Home” curator Elizabeth Michelman.

Poignant Requiem in Duxbury

RequiemA lifesize, floating shark by Kitty Wales, Requiem (1997), hangs outside the Duxbury Art Complex. Made of steel and tin, slowly achieving a rust patina in the shore weather, this Caribbean Reef shark seems recently to have become a symbol–perhaps unintended–of the plight of marine mammals around the globe. Wales works from direct observation of nature, admiring the “grace and fluidity” of sharks, whose numbers have declined rapidly since the piece was made. The title is more relevant than ever.

Malvina’s Thoreau


Malvina Hoffman‘s 1962 bust of Henry David Thoreau is tiny but mighty. On view at the Concord Museum, the terra cotta bust was the result of studies and sketches preserved in the Getty Museum’s Hoffman archive.

Now through September 4th, “The Anatomy of a Desk: Writing with Thoreau and Emerson” also at the Concord Museum.